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  • Writer's pictureRakzo

Building a Mini Collection from Scratch for your D&D games

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

Having a literal army of painted 3D miniatures to use in a D&D session can be a game changer. But if you are starting out it can be very difficult to field such an array of different miniatures, from terrain, to player characters, to monsters and everything in between. So how do you do it? How do you start?

At the beginning of my collection, I didn't have enough money to buy pre-painted miniatures. So, based on my own experience I would advice the following:

  1. Start with DIY.

  2. Progress to more expensive 2D minis, either cardboard or plastic.

  3. Be on the lookout for miniature sales in Kickstarter, Amazon and the like.

  4. Buy once every month or two.

  5. Start looking at individual minis, unpainted.

  6. Consider a 3D printer.

  7. Get paints.

I'll explain the steps in more detail here:

  1. DIY: I started with a Photoshop sheet with a 1 inch grid. Scour the internet using Pinterest, Google, Deviant art, anything you like. Get cool images of the monsters you like. Insert them in the Photoshop grid. Print the grid in a thick paper.

This way you can have dozens of very nice square 2D minis for 1 or 2 dollars. It's dirt cheap and very easy to do. The bonus is that they occupy virtually no space. You can use them on the go with a small plastic box.

I usually have them separated in several categories using plastic bags, which helps a ton with organization. You can also glue them to cardboard to increase their survivability. There are bases that are very cheap too and you can use them with your minis.

  1. Pre-made 2D minis. The advantage of this approach is that these types of minis are usually quite inexpensive. Paizo has some cardboard 2D minis. They can also be useful, and some other 3rd party content creators do so. I use Skinni minis, who have launched 2 Kickstarters, they are more expensive than doing them yourself, but are of decent quality, they have original designs and they all fit together quite nicely, oh and did I mention they have both a back and a front design? That way you can recognize minis without having to turn them around or moving to opposite sides of the table.

In here you can see I almost exclusively used 2D minis, they don’t look bad and you can field a lot of them for a much lower price than the 3D versions.

  1. Hunting offers. Periodically, in Amazon, the prices for certain bricks will dramatically fall for a day or two. I have gotten some bricks literally at a 40% discount, which has made every mini I get cost between 1.5 to 2 dollars. Most are amazingly detailed and the paint gives them extra value. These price drops are rare, but check out the bricks every week, you'll surely get one good buy once every couple of months.

Kickstarter sometimes has AWESOME deals on miniatures. I have backed a couple and the minis I got were less than a dollar a piece, and I got more than 150 from a single project. The catch is that you sometimes have to wait over a year to get them. And also you have to be always vigilant for scams or poor quality projects.

  1. Buy sporadically. At times during the beginning of your collection, you will feel like there are so many things you are missing, you will want more monsters, more terrain, everything. This is normal, and the feeling will really never go away. So instead of buying tons of miniatures as fast as you can, give yourself some time to really build up your collection. At the beginning it will look like a daunting task, both psychologically and economically, but after a year or two of consistent acquisition, you will have a very decent pool of miniatures to use. Patience is the key here!

Here you can see a combination of lower quality 2D minis and some 3D ones. The 2D minis are used for the monsters or the bad guys, while the PCs and their allies get the coller looking 3D minis.

  1. Individual minis. These miniatures are usually more expensive, I would recommend you buy them for major NPCs, boss monsters (the BBEG of the campaign) or the Player Characters. In these cases you can use Heroforge. This will allow you extreme levels of customization. These things are expensive, but it may be worth it if the players are going to use the mini for years in a campaign.

  1. Buy a 3D printer. This will allow you to customize infinitely any kind of mini, not just monsters or PCs, but also terrain like rocks, trees, spell effects, etc. I would recommend the Mars Elegoo 2. It's a good entry point.

If you are thinking of acquiring one of these, keep in mind that there are both advantages and disadvantages to doing this.

The primary advantage is the amount of customization that you will have. This is exacerbated by the fact that .STLS are really cheap and very easy to get, so you can have hundreds of models stored in a usb ready to be printed and used within a day or two.

The main disadvantage is the entry cost and the learning curve. These things are somewhat tricky to use and you will have to learn by making some mistakes.

  1. Get busy painting. This is the last step because it really won’t increase the number of miniatures you will be able to field. What this last step will do is make sure that every mini that you have out there will look amazing!

If you do get a 3D printer, this is an excellent combination, because the vast majority of printers will only print in a single color.

Mind you that this step is also expensive. You will have to acquire the brushes (maybe even an air brush), lots of paints, primers and all manner of accessories so you can paint comfortably and easily.

In time, you will begin to replace your assets with higher quality ones, most of them 3D, but you can always go back to your trusty and cheap 2D ones to enhance the game.

You will notice that with this setup, you will be able to field an army of minis very quickly and cheaply, and with time you will begin to replace the more generic and lower quality ones with better ones. Building a collection is both expensive and time consuming, but hopefully these steps will allow you to get the maximum bang for your buck.

Hope it helps!

- Rakzo


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